History of the Palace Hotel - Hotel Palota

History of the Palace Hotel

According to the popular belief, Lillafüred was named by Count András Bethlen, Minister of Agriculture, who gave the name in 1892 in honor of Lady Lilla Vay to the stunningly beautiful place he discovered during hunting. By this event, the interest in the place and surroundings piqued. In the next year, the building of Hotel Lilla (burnt in World War II), together with some other villas, was started on Erzsébet sétány. 

The idea of its expansion into a tourist resort was raised by Count István Bethlen, prime minister, in the 1920s. As the first step, a wooden swimming pool was built at Lake Hámori. Since the water of the lake was cold, warm water was searched for, but the exploratory drilling at the site of the present bus parking lot in front of István Cave (St. Stephen’s Cave) had no success. 

The beauty and the natural endowments made István Bethlen, the prime minister, initiate the building of a governmental recreation house, which could serve the purpose of cultivating international relations, supplemented by receptions. Bethlen’s proposal met much criticism, because the economic world crisis at the end of the 1920s had a serious impact on Hungary too, and the large-scale investment necessary for the construction seemed to be unreasonable. 

In spite of all this, the decision on building the hotel was made, and Kálmán Lux, the famous architect was commissioned to prepare the plans. His idea was to build the hotel in renaissance style of the late 1400s, bringing back the atmosphere of the palaces during the reign of King Mátyás. The plans also included what the surroundings of the building should look like. 

Next to the landscaping and the establishment of the hanging garden, a plenty of money had to be spent on sledge and bobsled tracks for the lovers of winter sports above Mária sétány, a ski track with lift a bit farther, and a ski-jump suitable for competitions on Fehérkőlápa Plateau. 

Where the hotel is standing now, there were 22 houses that were expropriated and new ones were built for the owners in the village. There were long-lasting negotiations with the owner of the Weidlich villa (today Tókert Restaurant), who did not want to renounce his house even though he was offered an exchange villa in Fiume. That is why the original plans had to be modified and the highway is running on its present track. 

The construction of the hotel lasted from 1927 to 1930. The process of the construction is one of the most demonstrative examples of the well-organized communal wok during the economic crisis, which was also praised by opponents of the investment considered too costly. The inauguration ceremony of Hotel Palota, without Miklós Horthy Governor and Bethlen Prime Minister, within a relatively modest range, was on 7th June 1930. The moderation was explained by the fact that the government was strongly criticized by the press for this construction thought to be wasteful, that is why they did not want to raise the costs with a luxurious opening ceremony. Despite this, a great number of guests, including foreigners too, came to the opening. The successful opening was accompanied by intensive interest. Long rows of cars meandered on the serpentine road to Lillafüred and a lot of guests arrived by train as well. The hotel became the favourite residence of high society guests. Lillafüred became known as a climatic resort and health resort. 

Treatment for respiratory and neurotic diseases was offered by the tourist brochures. Next to the mountain climate, lying and outdoor walking cure, carbonic oxygen baths, foam baths and mud cure served the healing. These treatments were carried out in the medical bath house in Felsőhámor, of which only the location is known today. 

For the fans of tourism and sports, organized excursions, horse-riding and hunting had been offered. On Lake Hámor fishing, swimming, rowing and sailing was possible. Those who arrived in winter, could use the sledge and bob-sled tracks and the ski-jump. There were skiing lessons on the ski slope. Until the late 1930s the hotel operated to its full capacity each summer. In winters, however, despite the variety of winter sports, it was relatively deserted. 

In the hotel the idea of establishing a casino presented itself. In 1934 German capitalists made a proposal to implement this plan. The Hungarian Government rejected this offer, though it could have been a considerable income for the state treasury. 

In the 1930s the hotel hosted a number of outstanding events. 

In 1930 the Association of Banks organised the Congress of Banking Companies in the hotel. 

In June 1931 the first Week of the Hungarian Film was organized here, which was accompanied by great international interest. On the occasion of the event, several famous actors and domestic people of position arrived. In September of the same year, the International Tennis Championship was organised. In June 1933, the Week of Writers took place here with 200 participants, on which Attila József took part as well, and the beauty of the landscape inspired him to write his magnificent poem “Ode”. The meeting was interrupted by a tragic event: the chairman of the Writers’ Association suddenly died. Every year the Anna Balls were always the outstanding events of the year, organised in luxurious settings and with tremendous participation. 

After opening, the operation remained in the hands of the state for a long time. 

The Ministry of Agriculture thought that due to the economic crisis it would be more favourable to lease the hotel, so a call for proposals was announced. The leasing negotiations with several people lasted long, but finally came to an unsuccessful end and the hotel remained a state property. 

In World War II, the Hotel Palota was converted into a military hospital for healing the wounded Russian soldiers. Though the building itself did not suffer much damage during the war, the hospital status and the thefts led to irreparable damage in the original sumptuous furnishings. After the war it was the Bükk Medical Bath Company which took over the right to manage the hotel, then this right passed to the National Council of Trade Unions (NCTU). The hotel then operated as a NCTU resort for 40 years, where the assigned workers got accomodation. This condition contributed strongly to the further deterioration of quality. The majority of the furnishings were changed for cheap, plain furniture and the inner alterations just served the purpose of accommodating as many people as possible in modest circumstances. There was a reconstruction in the building between 1974 and December 1977, during this period the Palace Hotel did not receive any guests. 

In 1992 Hotel Palota became the possession of the National Foundation for Holiday Services, which passed the managing authority to the Toboz Regional Company for Holiday Services, a subsidiary of Hunguest Company, in 1993. In 1994 the Lillafüred Foundation established a fine art gallery in the hotel, where were new exhibitions every month and the opening ceremonies were always followed by concerts. In 1998 the Hunguest Co. had large-scale renovation done in Hotel Palota: the rooms were newly panelled and furnished, period furniture bringing back the air of old times was installed in the lounge; new ways of interior design were applied. The hotel, previously ranked one-star became a 3-star hotel. By opening the sports and fitness centre of European level, excellent opportunities for active recreation are provided. 

Due to the renovation works, which started in May 2009, the hotel got spacious rooms, with furniture matching the style of the building. All the rooms have a comfortable bathroom, and offer a full recreation for the guests with color TV and minibar. The telephone and free Wifi Internet in the room provide a perfect stay for business travelers too. 

In the wellness area of the hotel the range of services and the size was also expanded. Our new "Quiet Wellness" is available only for our dear guests over the age of 14 years from 08:00 to 09:00 and from 19:00 to 21:00, but it serves the relaxation of children under the age of 14 years from 9:00 to 19:00 as well. 

From 1 April 2023, our hotel will offer unchanged hospitality, a renewed image and will be a fully independent Hotel Palota Lillafüred****, awaiting new and returning guests in the fabulous Lillafüred.

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